Richard Culp worked in the hot California sun as foreman of a large ranching operation. He and his wife, Geneva, also owned their own farm, consisting of 200 acres of almond trees. Then years of bad weather and skimpy harvests forced Richard to take on additional work, but even that didn't help. So he and Geneva took on additional loans to pay their farming expenses, but that only put them deeper in debt. They spent many sleepless nights struggling to find a way to cover all their obligations.
One day, Geneva brought Richard the bad news: "Oh, Richard," she said. "I've just been to the farm credit company. They've taken it all! We're being forced to sell. They have a buyer; there's no price negotiation. All they want is our signatures."
They cried together as they realized everything they had worked a lifetime to acquire was gone. On top of that, they still owed $100,000 even after all their assets were seized. Richard was 50 years old and had been farming all his life. Two of their eight children were still at home, and they had no money to start over.
Even so, Richard says, "In spite of the overwhelming loss and grief, I knew that God was in control of our situation. I remembered the Bible story of Joseph. Even as a slave and prisoner, that young man was part of God's glorious plan. As for me, I knew that God must have something better for our future too."
Richard and Geneva were trusting the Lord, but that didn't make things better. In fact, things got worse. Two weeks after the creditors took their farm, Richard lost his job as a ranch foreman. Their family moved into a compact rental unit, and they began working a series of minimum wage jobs, including a stint at a fast food restaurant. There were many times they didn't have money for groceries and living expenses, but God provided for them through their family, their friends, and their church.
A year-and-a-half later, Richard and Geneva were offered a management position at an exclusive, 2,600-acre waterfowl hunting club in northern California. The club catered to wealthy clients. Richard says, "As we served at the club in numerous ways, we realized again and again that money and possessions cannot bring happiness. We had lost everything, yet we had joy in our lives."
Then after they had been at the club for about a year, Richard received a call from the head of the credit company that had taken their farm. He wanted to talk with them and insisted on making the hour's drive out to the hunting club.
As they sat together, the head of the credit company said, "I want to ask you something personal. A friend of mine recently lost everything he owned. His wife just committed suicide. We at the office have noticed that you two are handling this crisis differently than most people do. Can you tell me what your secret is?"
Richard was happy to explain. "We believe in the God of the Bible," he said. "He is sovereign over our lives, and he is in control. Even though the pain is real, we are confident of this: God has proven sufficient and able to take care of us."
Geneva added, "God's Word promises, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'"
It was absolutely true. Throughout the entire ordeal, Richard says, "We never felt alone for a single moment." Later, as the head of the credit company rose to leave, he thanked Richard and Geneva. "You've given me a lot to think about," he said quietly.
(Cynthia Culp Allen, "We Lost the Farm," Christian Reader, Sep/Oct 2001, pp.77-80. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, When Life Isn't Fair, 9/1/2011)
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